Columbia, SC (Sports Network) - The 12th-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks
continue their final three-game home stand on Saturday afternoon when they
take on the Arkansas Razorbacks in SEC action.
Arkansas came into the season with high expectations and a top-10 ranking, but
it got off to a dreadful 1-4 start. The Razorbacks have righted the ship
somewhat in recent weeks, winning three of their last four games, including
19-15 last week against non-conference foe Tulsa. While facing off against
South Carolina seems like a difficult task, UA has an impressive eight-game
win streak against teams from the SEC's Eastern Division.
South Carolina has had an otherwise fantastic season derailed by a pair of
tough road losses to LSU (23-21) and Florida (44-11). While the Gamecocks'
hopes of playing for the SEC championship were shattered, a strong finish to
the season would benefit them in terms of qualifying for an at-large bid to a
"I think we started the season (ranked) No. 8 in the preseason and we're
actually No. 8 in the BCS right now," head coach Steve Spurrier said of the
state of his team. "So we've had a good year. Not a great year, but not a bad
year, just sort of a good year right now. We certainly hope to finish strong
the last four games."
Arkansas leads the all-time series with South Carolina, 13-7, which includes
wins in three straight seasons.
Considering the expectations for the offense coming into the season, the fact
that the Razorbacks rank ninth in the SEC in scoring (26.1 ppg) is a
Tyler Wilson had preseason Heisman aspirations, and while that dream will not
come true, he is still having a stellar season, throwing for more than 315
yards per game with tossing 16 touchdowns to eight interceptions. Wilson is
the owner of 26 school records, including career completion percentage (.621).
With 11 receptions last week against Tulsa, Cobi Hamilton now has a school-
record 69 catches on the season. He leads the SEC in receiving yards 1,077 and
he ranks fourth nationally by gaining 119.7 ypg.
Dennis Johnson (598 yards, eight TDs) has taken over as Arkansas's feature
back in recent weeks with great success. He has rushed for at least 100 yards
and two touchdowns in back-to-back games, becoming the first Razorback with
two straight 100-yard rushing games since 2010.
On the season, UA's defense has not played well (29.1 ppg), but in its last
three wins it has surrendered an average of only 9.7 ppg. The unit held a
powerful Tulsa offense to just 328 yards a week ago.
"It was really good to see the defense put the game on their back and step up
and win it ... we can build on all of those things," head coach John L. Smith
said following the win.
Ross Rasner has been the team's best defensive player with 67 tackles, 5.5
tackles for loss, two sacks, two forced fumbles, and three interceptions.
Chris Smith is one of the best pass rushers in the league with eight tackles
for loss, 5.5 sacks, and 10 QB hurries.
South Carolina's offense has been strong this season, scoring 32 ppg, but it
will be without star running back Marcus Lattimore (662 yards, 11 TDs) for the
rest of the season after he suffered a brutal knee injury against Tennessee.
As unfortunate as the situation is, it's becoming a familiar one for Spurrier
and company, as Lattimore missed the majority of last season with a knee
injury as well.
"It was a similar situation here last year when Marcus got hurt," Spurrier
said. "We do have some very good players behind him. Kenny Miles will be our
starting tailback. We're going to miss Marcus, but we have two good backs that
will fill in admirably."
Miles has just 42 carries for 149 yards and a touchdown on the season. Mike
Davis (24 carries, 157 yards, TD) is also expected to see work out of the
No Lattimore means that Connor Shaw will need to be an even bigger part of the
offense. He threw for a career-high 356 yards and three touchdowns against
Tennessee, giving him 1,388 yards and 12 TDs (five INTs) on the season. Shaw
is also the team's most experienced rusher left, having gained 311 yards and
two scores on the ground.
Ace Sanders (24 receptions, 270 yards) and Bruce Ellington (23 receptions, 366
yards) have put up modest numbers at receiver, but Shaw looks to them in the
red zone as the two have combined for eight touchdowns.
The defense had a mini-breakdown against Tennessee by allowing 35 points, but
South Carolina still boasts one of the conference's best defenses (18.3 ppg,
Jadeveon Clowney is one of the most feared defensive players in the country,
and he's racked up 15 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks on the season. Shaq
Wilson has a team-high 54 tackles, and with two interceptions and a fumble
recovery, and he has accounted for three of the team's 14 takeaways.
The Sports Network